Thursday, December 7, 2023

Survey shows farmers valued

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Criticism of farming isn’t about farmers, it’s about practices, a survey after the Open Farms days in March has found.
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The survey, which was emailed to people who provided contact details when they visited one of the farms, suggests farmers are valued and seen as part of the solution to achieve sustainability. 

More than 3500 people visited one of 45 farms as part of Open Farms field days and of the 322 who replied to the survey 60% said buying New Zealand-grown food or buying direct from a farmer is the most effective way they can support sustainable farming. 

Farmers were also cited as the group that can make the biggest difference to the quality of NZ’s waterways.

However, respondents were concerned some farming practices, including synthetic fertiliser use, corporate farm ownership and land use in some areas are not sustainable and need to change.

Positive comments from the survey included being proud the NZ farming model is sustainable by international standards and appreciating the hard work farmers do to provide food for society though others were worried about a dependence on synthetic fertiliser and meat consumption, especially beef, needs to be much less.

Our Land and Water theme leader James Turner said the results suggest people who took part have a good understanding with 28% rating science in farming as the best aspect of the open days.

The level of technical interest can provide educational and marketing opportunities across consumer-friendly concepts like regenerative farming, carbon sequestration and brand NZ.

Respondents agreed with the findings of a 2019 survey of rural decision-makers that NZ’s environmental priority should be keeping stock out of waterways, with 43% identifying that as the most effective way to protect lakes and rivers, followed by reducing fertiliser use (34%), tree planting (31%) and land use diversification (29%).

The rural decision-makers survey found 81% of farmers are already actively keeping stock out of waterways and 77% are actively managing fertiliser use.

Turner says the areas of agreement will provide a good place to start a conversation between rural and urban communities, which can be built on from there.

The Our Land and Water survey was designed to deliver information to a wider research theme called Capacity for Transition. 

“The Challenge is focused on understanding what it will take to transition NZ to a more sustainable future,” Turner says. 

“It’s about having well informed public debates, understanding our collective responsibility and removing barriers to change. The Open Farms project and resulting survey contribute to this.”

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